By Gary Murray
Starring the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Lewis Black and Phyllis Smith
Written by Meg LeFauve, Jose Cooley and Pete Docter
Directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen
Running time 94 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
Pixar is the most successful studio on the planet. Every film they have ever made has been a blockbuster smash. Up, Toy Story and Wall-E are just a few of the massive hits in their roster. The latest to be released is one of the more esoteric Inside Out.
Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) is the first emotion of Riley. She is in control of the emotions the young girl. The other emotions that are in the central control room are Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader). At different times in Riley’s life, one of these emotions takes the helm. But, most of the time Joy runs the 11 year-olds life.
Things change when Riley’s parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco. She knows no one in her new city, her new school and her new life. The new house is small and her room is cramped. Dad is having problems with the company and Mom is having problems with the movers. Things are less than perfect.
Inside Riley’s head, Joy and the crew send memories to different parts of her long-term memory, which looks like magic balls. There are five realms in her brain such as Imagination Land, Hockey and Family. Each is a very positive stronghold that makes up the world of an 11 year-old.
Joy and Sadness get sucked down into a tube and into long-term memory. They have to get back to the control room. This sends them into the different realms but these realms begin to crumble. Joy doesn’t understand because everything was perfect before.
In the control room, Anger, Fear and Disgust take over the manipulations and Riley becomes a more typical ‘tween girl. She becomes a bit surly and distant; not stating what is on her young mind. The film is of Joy and Sadness having to work together to get back to the control room and Riley adjusting to life in San Francisco.
The film is of two different cinema styles. The family scenes look like a cross between the humans in Toy Story and The Incredibles. They are close to real people. The more technology advances, the more human the computer images become.
But, most of the world takes place inside the brain. The characters look more as if they were drawn for a storybook. There is a ‘fuzzy glow’ around the characters, a softness of image that has never been accomplished in a Pixar film before. This is one of the most surreal flicks one will see this year.
The voice cast is superb all the way down the line. Lewis Black just nails the role of Anger to the point that one wishes he were in the film more. Bill Hader brings a manic energy to his role. But, this is a showcase for Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith. The two work together as two sides of the same coin. They play off each other and must learn to work together in order to get back to normalcy.
I loved the idea that emotions are all or nothing, which is the way it is when you are a kid. As one gets older, there is a much more complicated emotional palate that happens when one matures. When you are three, there is just ultimate joy and sadness, but when you are eleven every joy has a moment of sadness. When Anger takes over, we can all understand the generation of the emotion.
The film is directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen and there is a certain funky feel to the proceedings. But, the film does lack the warmth of earlier Pixar flicks and it is not as family friendly as some other Pixar films. A story about the inner workings of a ‘tween girl does not bode well for family ticket sales. Little kids may like the colors but not get the nuances of the mind’s inner-workings may be a bit to over-the-top for most of the kids.
I liked Inside Out but I did not love it. There was something that just seems to be amiss with the story. It felt as if it dragged and needed another pass through the word processor. The last few moments are an ultimate scream. It’s like this—if a ball player hits ten grand slam home runs in a row then does an in-field homer with only one man on base. It’s still impressive but not as impressive. Inside Out is that in-field homer.